Chronicle of a West Bank Murder: Transcripts of the Reenactment of Itamar Murder Revealed for First Time

The transcripts and reenactment of the cold-blooded murder of the Fogel family show two alienated young men who were looking for an 'adventure.'

A year and three months have passed since the murder of the Fogel family in the Itamar settlement near Nablus. Haaretz has obtained the transcripts of both the interrogation of those who were eventually convicted and their reenactment of the murder.

On Friday night, March 11, 2011, at about 9 P.M., Amjad and Hakim Awad (the two are not related ) left their West Bank village of Awarta in the direction of nearby Itamar. They passed the settlement fence, broke into two empty houses, and afterward continued to the adjacent house, where the Fogels lived.

When they entered the Fogel home, they stabbed and murdered the father of the family, Ehud (Udi ); the mother, Ruth; and the children Yoav (11 ), Elad (4 ) and Hadas (3 months ). They fled back to their home in Awarta, where they were arrested three weeks later. The two stood trial in the Samaria military court and were convicted of five acts of deliberately causing death (the crime of murder, as it is known according to military law in the territories ).

On April 10, the interrogation of the two began in the Judea and Samaria police district. They were taken, in the middle of the night, to reenact their deeds, equipped with two cardboard knives and dolls to simulate the victims. The file demonstrates that there is a tremendous gap between the "success" of the infiltration into the settlement, the murder of five people, the theft of two rifles and the escape without a scratch - and the random nature of the implementation.

The transcript of the interrogation indicates that the two murderers did not belong to any terror organization, and that their level of political awareness was negligible. Hakim, aged 17 at the time of the attack, said he had once participated "in a memorial service for my uncle who was killed in 2003, and the service was held by the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine]." Amjad, 18 at the time of the attack, threw a few stones at Israel Defense Forces soldiers who entered the village, and added that "in seventh grade I participated in activities connected to the Popular Front and Fatah, including attendance at an event in tribute to shahids [martyrs], plus rallies and parades."

During their interrogation, the two said they were not particularly close friends. There was also a detail that Amjad wanted to conceal. He was in love with Hakim's sister Julia, and used to talk to her in secret. He may have tried to become close to Hakim in order to impress the family.

Amjad testified that he was the one who proposed the attack. "I wanted to carry out an attack because I wanted to get rid of this life. There were problems between me and the family. Two years ago my father would ask me about my studies, why I was smoking and would regularly interfere in my private affairs. And that's why I considered committing suicide. The way I thought of doing it was to carry out a suicide attack in Itamar.

"Two weeks before the attack," Amjad continued, "I saw in a dream that I was wearing white and that everything around me was green, and then I knew I was going to die as a shahid. I told my mother about the dream and she said 'Allah yustur' [God help you]. I said I wanted something that God would like and receive from me and I would be released from life. I chose Itamar because it's the settlement nearest to us. Hakim refused at first and tried hard to convince me, but I convinced him and told him, 'With or without you I'm going in.' And then Hakim agreed, after a lot of resistance."

Later on Amjad changed his story, claiming, "Hakim told me he had been thinking about the same thing for a long time."

Hakim said that on that Friday he met Amjad, who was sitting on a fence at the side of the road. They started talking about their studies and "then," according to Hakim, "we talked about another subject, the adventure. In the conversation about the adventure, I suggested an idea to Amjad, that we would go to the fence of Itamar. Amjad said, 'Forget it.' I said, 'Let's do something that will be special. So that in the future everyone will grow old and tell his children about it.' Amjad was persuaded and we agreed to go down to the settlement at 7 P.M."

Later on, Hakim claimed - in contradiction to this version - that he began preparations a week earlier. "I left Awarta by myself and I looked at the settlement of Itamar from a distance in order to see how it was built, and in order to see the distance from the fence to the houses. I decided that I couldn't do anything alone, and that the attack would be on the houses on the outskirts."

Divine revelation

In preparation for the deed, the two equipped themselves with hoods, pruning shears (on which the DNA of Amjad's mother, Nuf, was found ) for cutting the fence, and knives brought by Hakim. "One I brought from Nablus, one I bought three months ago in the village. I paid NIS 50," he said. On the way to the settlement, Amjad claimed that he experienced another divine revelation. "After the night prayer, we prayed and embraced. A white light emerged, and we started reading a verse from the Koran." According to Amjad, Hakim said it was possible that what they saw were soldiers who had set up an ambush for the two. Amjad replied, "Those aren't soldiers, that's God with us."

When they came to the fence they were afraid it was electrified. First they threw a knife at it, but nothing happened. Amjad plucked up courage: "I said 'Halas' (enough ). If it's electrified or not electrified, I don't mind dying. I grabbed the fence with my hands." After it was clear that the fence wasn't electrified, they tried unsuccessfully to cut it with the shears. In the end they brought olive branches and used them to climb over the fence.

At first they entered the first house in the row, which was empty. Afterward they entered the home of the Hai family, who had gone away for Shabbat, and from there they stole an M16 rifle, a clip, a military vest and a helmet. From the window of the house they saw Tamar Fogel, who left to attend an activity with the Bnei Akiva youth group, and then the murder spree began.

Amjad described the murders as follows: "I opened the shutter and a boy wearing glasses saw me. I closed the shutter. I entered from the front door, which was open. Hakim stayed by the door as a lookout. I took the first boy [Yoav] into the bedroom and murdered him with two blows to his neck. I slaughtered him."

Hakim added that "inside the house there was a dim light. The two boys [Yoav and Elad] were standing in front of us. The tall boy wanted to talk or scream. Amjad ran toward him, to a room at the end of the house. I took the short boy into the corridor, turned his face toward me so that he wouldn't see what was about to happen to his brother. Amjad took out a knife and slaughtered the tall boy."

Next the two killed 4-year-old Elad. "I turned to the second one," Amjad said. "I took him and tried to choke him but he didn't die. Then I stabbed him with a knife." Hakim said, "I entered the room with the boy. I lay him down on the floor. I told him 'Sit,' and ordered him to lie on his back. He lay down on a rug. I shut his mouth with my hand. Amjad entered, looked into my eyes, leaned over on the floor and stabbed the boy twice in his stomach and twice in the chest area."

Then the two entered the parents' bedroom and turned on the light. The couple woke up and a struggle began between them and their assailants.

Amjad: "I saw a mother and a father, and between them a baby boy or girl was sleeping. The father attacked me and I stabbed him with the knife in his chest, and then I saw the woman attacking Hakim. He fell and she fell to the floor with him. I stabbed her three times in the back, and Hakim shot her."

Hakim described the situation from his point of view. "The woman attacked Amjad. I tried to shoot at her. She lay down on the weapon I was holding and began to struggle with me. I kicked her with my foot and I assume that she fell onto Amjad's back. I saw Amjad stabbing her with a knife. At that moment I cocked the weapon a few times and shot at her stomach. Then we left."

Amjad described the murder of the infant as follows: "I forgot to tell about the baby who was sleeping between the mother and the father and who cried out loud. And I stabbed him in the heart, and we left the same way we came."

Hakim explained: "We stood outside the house. I saw a military jeep in front of me. I thought that the jeep had come because it heard the shots and I prepared to exchange fire with them, but the jeep drove on. I told Amjad to enter the house in order to look for additional weapons. Five minutes later he went out through the window carrying a long M16, and told me he had murdered a little boy who was crying, because he was afraid they would discover us."

During the reenactment Hakim also added: "I opened the closets. I was looking at the back of the closet, so I struck the bed and went up to take the weapon. Then the baby started to cry in an unnatural loud voice, so I went to the baby who had been sleeping between his parents, and I only hit him like this on the left side. He died. I picked myself up and left."

There were two other children who were sleeping in the house at the time. In the past it was reported that the terrorists didn't notice them and that's why they didn't murder them. Hakim claims that they "skipped" them on purpose. "We saw another boy near the sofa who was wearing a black shirt. Amjad asked me whether to murder him. I said no, leave him alone, he's sleeping." Amjad added: "He didn't make a sound and didn't see us or anything." After the murder the two returned to the village and told their relatives what had happened. Their relatives scolded them, but helped them to hide the weapons and the bloody clothes.

Nothing in their behavior in the coming days could have revealed what they had done. "My father asked me where I had been," Amjad said. "I replied that I'd been with Hakim in Rafidia [the hospital in Nablus] because his grandmother was sick and we visited her. He believed me. I didn't do anything, life went on as usual. I went to work, to the university, I took my exams. I continued with my prayer and my life as usual. That is to say, in a natural way."

Hakim was more upset. "I came home. My father asked me where I had been. I told him in my school. He said 'Liar.' I told him, ask my uncle. At night, when my father saw the illumination [the illumination flares fired by the IDF], he asked me if I had done anything. I said no. Four days later I told my brother George, because he was nervous. I told him in order to calm him down."

At the conclusion of their interrogation Hakim asked to express regret for the murder. Amjad said: "I have no regret about myself. A man does something and has no regrets. You people murder millions and have no regrets."

'The death penalty is necessary'

The Shin Bet security services recently recommended that the IDF demolish the homes of the two men. In the past that was accepted practice, but in 2005 the IDF reached the conclusion that the demolitions caused more harm than good, and it was stopped. In 2008, the East Jerusalem home of Alaa Abu Dhein, the terrorist in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva attack, in which eight students were murdered, was demolished.

The Shin Bet interrogation revealed that the parents of both Hakim and Amjad did not know of their plans ahead of time, but the extended family was involved in concealing evidence.

Since the attack in Itamar, there has been a substantial increase in attempts to infiltrate settlements, particularly in the Samaria area. The Shin Bet apparently wants, by means of home demolitions, to create a deterrence against potential terrorists. The Shin Bet recommendation has been sent to be examined by the legal authorities. Afterward, the families will probably petition the High Court of Justice.

Even 15 months after the murder, the Fogel home at the edge of Itamar stands empty. The wooden plaque with the family name engraved upon it still hangs outside the house. Occasionally, someone places an Israeli flag there. After the murder, bars were quickly installed on other homes. These might have prevented the murder. Not far from the home, hundreds of people pray every day in the Mishkan Ehud synagogue, which was dedicated in memory of Ehud Fogel on the first anniversary of the murder.

Three members of the family survive: Tamar, who was 12 at the time of the murder; Roi, 8; and Yishai, 3. The three are living today in Jerusalem with their maternal grandparents, Rabbi Yehuda and Tali Ben Yishai.

In an interview with the newspaper Maariv in February, Rabbi Ben Yishai said that "the murderers really don't interest us. As far as we're concerned, they simply don't exist. The real problem is that it's [their non-existence] not carried out in any real sense. There's a law in the State of Israel that makes it possible to execute them. We asked and demanded of anyone who could intervene to promote that."

Yochai, Ruth's brother, told Haaretz this week that "people who take the lives of other people and another family have taken away their own right to live. They themselves say that and they themselves understand that they could have died. The other motives, such as creating deterrence, are secondary. It's not a condition. There's no point in getting into a debate as to whether it's more or less of a deterrence. We have to remove this evil from the country and the world, and that's why I support the death penalty for both of them. When the motive is clear and the brazen attitude is clear, the death penalty is necessary." (Chaim Levinson )

David Bachar